Spontaneously Charging Across the Country

Well, I did it again — drove all day. I’d have stopped if anything caught my attention (besides an empty gas tank or a full bladder), but all those hundreds of miles looked alike with only small variations. (The most exciting parts were seeing a group of javelina by the side of the road and crossing the Pecos River.) I’d been afraid of such a drive, it seemed way too much stress on me and my car, but I had no other choice.

And now it’s done. I spent the night in Alice, forty miles west of Corpus Christi. Today, if everything goes okay (and if I don’t get it into my head to do another of those drive-all-day marathons), I will get the oil changed in my car and check out Padre Island.

Friends in Texas have been sending me information of great places to check out between here and Austin (a friend and I have a hotel reservation in Austin for March 6), I’m sure there will be something in the area to capture my interest.

Sometimes I think I’ve lost the reason for taking this trip — it never was supposed to be about insanely charging across country — but it is supposed to be about being more spontaneous, and that is what I have been doing — spontaneously charging across the country.

I suppose I should have made more of an effort to stick to my few plans, such as spending a couple of nights at Big Bend to see the stars, but I still remember how uneasy the campground made me feel. And I have to listen to my instincts even if they come from nothing but exhaustion.

Luckily, that Austin date in March will slow me down. I have almost a week before I have to be there, and getting there early gains me nothing.

So let’s see if today I do a better job of finding adventure.

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(Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.”)

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Figuring Out Where to Go From Here

Route 66During the past three years, ever since the death of my life mate/soul mate I’ve been trying to figure out where to go from here. Currently I am taking care of my 96-year-old father, but someday this responsibility will come to an end, and I will have to find somewhere to live.

Or do I?

By nature, I am a quasi-hermit who easily settles into routines, and now that I am alone, that very nature could become a problem. Unless I do something to prevent stagnation, years from now I could end up being one of those forgotten old women, living behind closed curtains in a dingy apartment. Doesn’t seem like a healthy way to live, but to be honest, I’m not interested in another long-term committed relationship, either. Still, there is a world of opportunity between those two extremes.

When I met the man I was to spend thirty-four years of my life with, I become the most spontaneous I’d ever been. His being in the world made it seem as if the world were full of possibilities, and I grabbed hold of life with both hands and ran with it. Years later, as he got sicker and life took its toll on our finances, the possibilities shrank. Our lives became staid and minutely planned to take his infirmities into consideration. He told me once he regretted that the constraints of our life destroyed my spontaneity, and he was sorry to be the cause of it.

It’s not something I like to face, but the last years, and especially the last months of his life were terrible for both of us. And, something I like to face even less is that his death set me free. The best way to honor my mate’s life and his great gift of freedom is to take back the thing he thought he stole from me. So, to that end, I’m considering becoming a wanderer, living by wit and whim, at least for a while.

When I mentioned this idea to one of my grief-group friends, she said she’d love to be able to live such a life, and she’d do it in a flash if she had a couple of hundred thousand dollars.

Two hundred thousand dollars? Would it really take so much? I hope not, because I don’t have that kind of money — or any kind at all, to be honest — and unless my books became a belated overnight sensation, I have no way of getting it. On the other hand, if I don’t have rent or a mortgage to deal with, if I don’t have utility bills and other standard expenses every month, if I don’t drive all day using up tankfuls of gas but take short jaunts from place to place, then all I’d have to deal with is motels and food, and I might be able to swing that for a few months. I might even be able to find ways of extending the wandering, such as staying with friends and relatives for a few days, or perhaps even try some sort of crowd-funding such as Kickstarter.

Although I would be living by whim, the wandering life, for however long it lasted, wouldn’t be entirely pointless. I could visit bookstores and try to get them interested in my books. I could chronicle the journey, taking pictures of the places I visited, interviewing people, noting differences from place to place (if there are any. For all I know, one place could look the same as any other with a McDonald’s, Dairy Queen or Sonic, and Walmart wherever I went). I could even end up with a new book!

At the very least, I might be able to figure out where to go from here.

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Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+

Saying “Yes” to Life, and to Steampunk

I’ve been invited to participate in another collaborative novel, similar to the Rubicon Ranch project, only instead of a thriller, this collaborative effort will be steampunk.

I don’t know anything about steampunk. Know even less about the Victorian era. And know less than less about steam-driven machinery. So, of course, I agreed to do the project.

I crave anything that is different from what I know — different tastes, different experiences, different challenges. Ever since the death of my life mate/soul mate, it seems a waste (or a stagnation) to do what he and I always did. He might be moldering in the grave (or rather in a funerary urn) but it’s a disservice to both of us if I molder, too.

John Berryman wrote:

A voice calls, “Write, write!”
I say, “For whom shall I write.”
And the voice replies,
“For the dead whom thou didst love.

This quatrain could just as easily exhort, “Live, live for the dead whom thou didst love.”

Sometimes it feels as if this is still our life — his and mine — only I am here and he is . . . wherever. Perhaps I’m here to live for both of us. Or maybe, now I’m here to live just for me.

When we met, I was at my most spontaneous. Something about his being in the world made it seem as if life were full of possibilities, and I grabbed hold of life with both hands and ran with it. Years later, as he got sicker, as life took its toll on our finances, and the possibilities shrank, our lives became staid and planned to take his infirmities into consideration. He told me once he regretted that the constraints of our life destroyed my spontaneity, and he was sorry to be the cause of it.

It’s not something I like to face, but the last years, and especially the last months of his life were terrible for both of us. And, something I like to face even less is that his death set me free. The best way to honor my mate’s life and his great gift of freedom is to take back the thing he thought he stole from me, so I’ve been practicing spontaneity. Which means, saying yes to challenges. Saying yes to life. Saying yes to steampunk

So why steampunk? Why not? I’m a writer. I can fake it. I’ve also got the internet with all its research capabilities to help me. And it’s something I would never have considered writing. All good reasons.

Wikipedia defines steampunk as “a sub-genre of science fiction, fantasy, alternate history, horror, and speculative fiction that came into prominence during the 1980s and early 1990s. Steampunk involves a setting where steam power is widely used — whether in an alternate history such as Victorian era Britain or “Wild West”-era United States, or in a post-apocalyptic time — that incorporates elements of either science fiction or fantasy.”

In “How Do I Write A Steampunk Story?” Dru Pagliassotti says, “Steampunk fiction consists of two elements — the steam, or gaslamp aesthetic, iconography specific to the genre — and the punk, a critical ideology or political stance that satirizes, challenges, or subverts societal trends.”

Kat Sheridan, a friend who took a steampunk writing class wrote me, “Remember, steampunk is all about breaking the rules and throwing conventions out the window!”

Should be fun. I’ll let you know how it goes.